The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

Schwarzen-agri

In Food Justice, Inequality, Politics on August 3, 2010 at 8:21 am

Arnold Goes Aggro Vetoing Overtime for Farm Workers

I was quickly browsing the front pages of the Los Angeles Times last Thursday and something in the LATEXTRA section caught my eye.  Now, most people would not have stopped to read the headline “Overtime for field workers is vetoed,”  but I am slightly obsessed with food and farming.  We just spent two years living on our own farm, amidst acres and acres of citrus and avocado orchards.  I’ll spare you the details, but after growing my own food, I now know how much work and money goes into it.  I have a much greater appreciation for the people who grow and harvest our fresh fruits and vegetables.  So, I saw this headline and had to quickly read it (I say quickly here because this was read while my 3 year old daughter was eating her breakfast and trying to get me to role-play Peter Pan in British accents.)

This article reported that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have made California the first state to give farm workers overtime pay.  It was sponsored by State Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter), passed in early July by a vote of 46-26, and was a historic bill giving farm workers access to the same rights as millions of other workers. It looked to be a good bet pass into law as the Governor himself had the following to say about farm workers four years ago:

“It is critical that employees working outdoors like farm workers, highway workers, landscapers and construction workers drink plenty of water and take rest breaks in the shade. Our heat illness prevention regulations have made California a national leader for workplace standards for heat illness prevention and treatment.”

Governor Schwarzenegger
July 27, 2006

Yes, this quote is on the CA.gov website today.

Farm workers do have highly dangerous jobs working with pesticides (don’t even get me started on this) and the myriad of on-the-job injuries that can happen from too many hours in the heat without access to shade or water doing back breaking labor, just like Arnie said.

The LA Times article states an interesting fact:

Supporters of the bill countered that it’s simply wrong to treat the people who tend and pick crops differently from the workers who pack the produce into boxes or sell the fruits and vegetables in grocery stores.  Those related jobs carry extra pay for work beyond eight hours.

Giant agribusiness has won again, with the need for profit triumphing over justice.  One of the reasons this bill was vetoed is that the large majority of farm workers (50-70%) are undocumented immigrants. There is a large part of our country who does not want them here (yes, this was vetoed the same week that SB1070 was to go into effect in Arizona) and is willing to have these workers treated “less than” the rest of us.  This is eerily looking like slave labor, just under a different name.

– Guest post by Kiley Krekorian Hanish

  1. Thanks for sharing your insights, Kiley. I know that I am singing to the choir when I say that I am sickened by how the very folks who declare “no” on fair pay and work conditions for the field laborers of our country, would NEVER agree to spend even one day stooped over, under sweltering heat – stripped of their dignity and strong work ethic. I recently read in the NY Times where “The United Farm Workers Union issued a call to unemployed American citizens (and the ad read): ‘Job may include using hand tools such as knives, hoes, shovels, etc. Duties may include tilling the soil, transplanting, weeding, thinning, picking, cutting, sorting and packing of harvested produce. May set up and operate irrigation equipment. Work is performed outside in all weather conditions (summertime 90+ degree weather) and is physically demanding requiring workers to bend, stoop, lift and carry up to 50 lbs. on a regular basis.” The article went on to say that “few Americans will take up the offer, no matter how hungry they are. How can immigrants steal jobs nobody else wants?” Plus, “It is hard to imagine the native-born work force itching to return en masse to housekeeping, landscaping, car washing, meat-packing, poultry plucking and street-corner day labor.” I’ll say!!! This broken system that breeds contempt and discrimination is cancerous… “The objections of those who would rather complain about immigrant workers than fix the system” (in our land of the free and the brave) are, simply put, shameful.

  2. We need more blogs from this KKH person.

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